Data collection is the foundation that underpins great business improvement decisions. While there are many ways to collect data, tool time studies, also called time and motion studies, is one of the most popular and trusted methods.

Tool time studies are unique as they help you understand what’s really going on in the field by getting close to the work as it’s happening. Tool time studies provide you with a way to look closely at how things are done, examine disruptions, and identify frustrations experienced by the team. Tool time studies also create the space to identify opportunities, look for new ways to perform work, and measure changes made.

Let’s look at a workplace example to bring tool time and its data collection to life. Imagine you need to reduce plant maintenance times by 15 percent, but you’re not sure how to leverage your existing resources and meet this target. While you could survey your maintenance team members or seek feedback via focus groups, a much more effective starting point is timed workplace observations. Tool time analysis helps you diagnose areas of waste, and make timely, safe, and sustainable business decisions based on data and evidence rather than assumptions and guesswork.

When to use tool time data collection over other methods

Tool time is the ‘go to’ data collection strategy for many asset intensive organisations.You should consider tool time data capture if you want to:

  • Build a baseline and better understand your current performance or as an input into a holistic assessment.
  • Validate improvements already implemented to demonstrate before and after results.
  • Understand the problem fully so you develop the right strategy to tackle the issue.

All three options stand-alone and are important. The final decision rests on what you are trying to achieve. Please remember that like all data collection methods, tool time requires commitment, and an investment of time and resources, to be successful.

I’ve spent decades performing tool time observations and coaching others to use data to improve their business performance. It’s quite common for organisations and business improvement professionals to use tool time data collection to establish a baseline and validate improvement benefits. However, option three, using tool time observations to develop the best strategy to tackle the problem, is the least practised but potentially the most powerful when done correctly.

Which method is best – manual or digital data collection?

Manual tool time data collection, using pen and paper, is a tried-and-true process. However, today, digital tools make in-field data collection quicker, easier, and more accurate than ever before.

The new technology eliminates the dreaded transfer of handwritten notes into a digital format for analysis. This typically takes hours, can be prone to error, and is a frustrating way to end a long day of workplace observations. Using a digital solution, you can collect more valuable client data to analyse for the same investment of time and effort.

MinObs – an innovative time-use app

Minset uses a specialist proprietary digital tool, called MinObs, to improve field collection and analysis of time-use data. MinObs is the culmination of decades of in-the-field experience. The easy-to-use app:

  • collects hundreds of data points for each role in a single shift
  • undertakes multiple observations of the same role across different crews
  • identifies many ‘hidden’ challenges workers face as part of their roles, giving them a voice, enhancing engagement, and improving satisfaction.

Recently, we used the MinObs app for a number of consecutive 12-hour shifts. The project team consistently recorded almost 1,000 pieces of quality, standardised data per shift. The experienced operators reported it was virtually impossible to get that level of data capture using the traditional pen and paper methods.

With the support technology solutions, such as MinObs, you can make data-driven decisions quickly and get on with the job of improving your business.

Want to know more about tool time and its benefits?

Minset has extensive experience in providing tool time studies and data collection solutions. For more information please reach out and speak wit the team or read our latest tool time articles: